Saturday, March 28, 2009

#83 -- Dalton Jones

Dalton Jones

Dalton was a part-time player, primarily with the Red Sox and then the Tigers. He was only in a Tiger uniform for a short time in 1972 before being sent to the Rangers. The back of the card and the sponsorship of his Baseball Reference page both discuss his proclivities as a pinch-hitter. I like the comparison to Gates Brown on the card back, but not mentioning that Brown was also a Tiger. That meant that Billy Martin had the top 2 AL pinch-hitters of all-time at his disposal.

Dalton went 0-7 as a pinch-hitter with the Tigers through the end of May in 1972, so he was sent to Texas. That wasn't a good thing in 1972, but for Dalton it meant that he played under Ted Williams, who "recruited" him to the Red Sox and was one of his idols. Dalton got those 2 pinch-hits he was shy of Gates Brown, but the 2nd came on September 4 and was the last of his career. He had 81 pinch-hits at that time, but Gates had 4 by that time to hit 85 for his career and widen the gap.

This was the end of the line for Dalton in the big leagues. The Rangers released him following the season. He went 0 for his last 20 and 2 for his last 33, so it's not hard to see why. There is no card where Ted Williams is shown tutoring Dalton on hitting. Dalton caught on with the Expos and played with their AAA team for a time in 1973, but when he was hitting .208 after 59 games he gave it up for good. (The Baseball Reference beta site has better older minor league stats!)

Dalton was not a very good fielder. He primarily played second and third and his fielding percentage and range factor fall well below league average. In 1967, he played only 30 games at third for the Impossible Dream Red Sox, but he played Games 1-4 of the World Series at third, hitting .353 in those 4 games. However, after an 0-4 in Game 4 and the Sox down 3 games to 1, Dalton was pulled for Joe Foy. Foy went 0-4 in Game 5 and 1-4 in Game 6, but the Sox won both to force Game 7. Dalton got a pinch single in Game 6 and scored the run that put the Sox ahead to stay. In Game 7, Dalton drew a walk as a pinch-hitter off a dominant Bob Gibson (who only struck out 10) and the Cards won (Go Crazy Folks!). His performance in the Series was a high water mark in his career.

If you look at Dalton's home run log, you won't see any grand slams. As a pinch-hitter, he had one that headed into the upper deck in right field in Tiger Stadium on July 9, 1970, but Don Wert took it away from him. Don Wert played third, didn't he? Dalton was a Tiger and he was teammates with Wert at the time, weren't they? So how did Wert rob Dalton of an upper deck homer? I don't think Ken Griffey, Jr. ever got up that high. The porch in right field of Tiger Stadium overhung (that's got to be poor grammar) the field and Dalton hit a high fly. Instead of going halfway, Wert was retreating to first when the ball went into the seats. As the ball went into the seats, Dalton was hitting first base and Wert was retreating. Dalton passed Wert and was called out. Wert and the other two runners on got to score, so Dalton got credit for a bases clearing 3 run single. It broke a 3-3 tie and the Tigers won. At least they didn't lose by 1.

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